Sixty-six years ago, a tense world waited.
Civilians and POW’s held in Japanese slave labor operations and concentration camps continued in a daze of starvation and deprivation. Deaths accelerated by the day.
Children, women and men held in the camps did not know that on:
August 6, the Atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima
August 7, 1945 Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo of Japan sent a coded telegram to his ambassador in Moscow. Japan had proposed a peace agreement to the Soviet Union, and wanted an answer (Haseqawa, 2006).
August 9, 1945
- The Atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
- Due to the Nagasaki bombing Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo proposed acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration which set out terms of surrender for Japan and was signed by the United States, Great Britain, and China (U.S.S.R. ruler Joseph Stalin was a principal participant at Potsdam but did not sign the declaration). Japan’s Supreme War Council did not reach a decision. (http://www.atomicarchive.com/History/twocities/nagasaki/page6.shtml )
(in some Jappen Kampen Japanese Concentration Camps in the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia, inmates observed usually stoic Japanese guards weeping and speaking of losing their entire family. Yet inmates had no idea what had occurred)
August 10, 1945 2 A.M. Prime Minister Admiral Baron Kantaro Suzuki respectfully begged His Imperial Majesty Hirohito to make a decision. At last Hirohito said, “…I do not desire any further destruction of cultures, nor any additional misfortune for the peoples of the world. On this occasion, we have to bear the unbearable.”
August 12, 1945 Allied naval personnel on-board the USS Bristol heard that Japan had surrendered
August 13, 1945 POW and Civilian Japanese Concentration/Slave Labor Camps/Mines/Factories waited. Occasionally inmates experienced hope, but most such sentiment sunk into a stupor of suffering and starvation. Food was the only thought. Survivors of this time talk of the courage necessary to awaken and move into each brutal day, only to awaken the next day and face captivity again. Most clinging to life could not know that on August 14th, Emperor Hirohito, thought of as immortal by the Japanese people, would announce his decision to surrender.
This is how my dear “friends” who I know through reading many excellent memoirs waited
Most still practiced innovation in hopes of extending survival. For instance, in the men’s camp Tjimahi on the island of Java, men urinated daily into a barrel, to aid in making of yeast, which provided nutrition to inmates, and for a time to a nearby women’s and children’s camp.
Most still “chewed” each morsel of food or weak broth 100 times to stretch out subsistence calories. The “food” chewed included: garbage, tapioca, starch, entrails, bits of rice, scavenged frogs, snails, rats, occasionally greens.
Boys feared turning ages anywhere between 8 and 10, because this marked the ages the Japanese would suddenly send boys to the mens’ kamps where most experienced such loneliness and fear that (like my father) they never discussed their war years again.
Most had long suppressed emotion, in the midst of death, in order to survive.
Most no longer counted 100 days to freedom, over and over again.
Yet vestiges of hope continued.
- In the women’s and children’s camps in Indonesia/Dutch East Indies, a few inmates in tatters of clothes yet had liberation outfits put away.
- My author “friends” abound. Some are: Clara Olink Kelly of The Flamboya Tree: Memoirs of a Mother’s Wartime Courage and Ernest Hillen of TheWay of a Boy a Memoir of Java each had an item that survived the war. Most were eventually liberated with nothing. Contact me or read other posts to see what survived.
- Boudewijn van Oort (author of Tjideng Reunion), who among others posts these jappen kampen japanese concentration camp sketches which survived the war, considered himself fortunate to not be considered old enough yet, to be sent to the mens/boys camps – and away from his mother.
- Increased punishments and cut rations inflicted upon inmates, led many to uphold morale by saying secretly amongst themselves: “The war must be going badly for the Japanese if we are being punished.” (This was found later to be true).
Tell me your stories of your own and others’ survival.